Saturday, January 8, 2011

Frailty, Thy Name is Memory - Part 2

My post yesterday got me thinking more about photographs. According to the file folder on our computer, Linda and I have taken over 900 pictures of Violet. I’m surprised by the number, too. My plan was to take one picture a day, not 20, but here we are. Why do we feel the need to capture every smile, every look, every angle of her face? Is it a bad thing? Are we overdoing it? I don’t know, but I wonder if our obsession will continue. Violet’s still a new addition to our reality; in my mind, when I think of “us” I think of me and Linda, and then I catch myself – oh, that’s right - and Violet, too. But an undeniable fact of our reality is that if we keep taking pictures at this rate, we’ll never have time to look at them all. The author Douglas Coupland recently wrote about people who “tape pretty much everything…and there’s not enough time in life to review even a fraction of those recorded memories. Kitchen drawers filled with abandoned memory cards.” I read that and it made me think of a book I read a number of years back called The Beach by Alex Garland. It was a modern day take on Lord of the Flies, only instead of schoolboys marooned on an island, it involved twentysomething vagabond travelers finding the perfect beach on the perfect tropical island and keeping it a secret. The main character was a self-absorbed young man who scoffs at the idea of taking pictures. To him, any picture he takes of an experience will limit his memories to what’s in the picture – that’s all he’ll remember. He sees pictures not as capturing memories, but as restricting them. When I read the book, the sentiment sounded familiar because I felt the same way in my early twenties. My trips to Europe, camping trips with friends, bonfires on the beach – I took few pictures because I had some high and mighty notion that it would somehow pollute the moment. And maybe it would have. It's hard to fully engage with something that you're recording, but by the time I read The Beach I realized what I wrote in yesterday’s post – memory is a faulty construction, and that wouldn’t be so bad on it’s own. I’d be happy if I could remember all the details of my youth and young adulthood, even if those details weren’t exactly true – the bigger problem is that memory is also lazy – or at least mine is, and there is so much of the past that just slips away, and if I haven’t written about it or taken a picture of it, eventually, it’s just gone. And I’m not even 40. I know I have to accept a certain amount of that – 900 pictures really is too much. It’s not practical or even logical to try and capture that much; I’d be better off just spending more time with Violet than spending too much time taking pictures of her, but I’m figuring that years from now, when Violet has grown up and moved away, and I’m waiting for her to call, or email, or Skype, or whatever we’ll be using in twenty years to communicate, I’ll be looking through the piles of pictures and videos while I wait, happy and grateful that I took more than enough.

49 days old


  1. We took a TON of photos of Macie, and I initially had the same thoughts. But you know what? She LOVES to look at them now! She giggles when we point out tiny baby Macie. It's a great way to calm her when she's fussy. They will come in handy!

  2. And you know what? You will be darn thrilled that you kept this blog. These words tell as much as any picture, and the combination is a gift to your future (not to mention us)! A.

  3. Amy - I never thought of that, and I should have. I was the fifth child in my family, so there's a grand total of about four baby pictures of me, taken by friends or relatives - and I SO wish that there were more. If anyone looks down at all our pictures, we'll say we're doing it for Violet!

    Amy LV - Thanks, Amy! Linda was just saying last night that she can't wait until the last post is posted and we can get this in a more concrete form - not just for Violet, but for ourselves, too. It's great looking at it on the screen, but there's something about holding all that work - in one volume - in your hands (as I'm sure you know, Mrs. Published Author!)